Proposed New Tobacco Warnings

Ana Abraham

For decades, the United States has included warnings from the Surgeon General on every pack of cigarettes sold. Recently, Congress has tried to take the warning labels one step further by putting actual pictures on cigarette packs that depict the various ailments that smoking can cause.

To “preserve the status quo,” U.S District Judge Richard J. Leon blocked Congress’ idea, which would have been implemented in September of 2012. His conclusion stated that putting the somewhat graphic images in such a prominent place as the top half of both sides of a cigarette pack would change consumer behavior, because it would “evoke emotion” that would cause “irreparable harm” to the tobacco companies.

CNN.com offers a gallery of some of the 36 images that would have been depicted. The pictures are not easy to look at. They reveal the (often ignored) possible physical consequences of smoking. Leon also stated that some of the pictures appeared “digitally enhanced or manipulated.”

Matthew L. Myers and his Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids seem to be heading up the opposition to the Judge’s ruling. They pointed out that over 40 other countries have mandated their tobacco products to carry such warnings. Also, Myers brings attention to the long-held argument against tobacco, which is it kills over 400,000 Americans each year. A somewhat lesser known fact goes along with this last one, that health care expenses related to tobacco use total around $96 billion yearly. And that’s just in the United States alone.

Myers and his supporters are doing their best to encourage the Justice Department to look over Leon’s decision. He realizes that in the end, oftentimes addictions will see past the proposed pictures. Even so, the pictures would “potentially save tens of thousands of lives per year.” That argument, and the amount of support it’s cultivated, makes the images seem more necessary than negative.